This adventure is far from spiffing.
Her Majesty’s Spiffing offers a glimpse into a disastrous future, but like the politics it mocks, it’s based on an archaic past.
Set in a future shortly after Britain’s exit from the EU, the country is in political turmoil. The Queen, distressed by the situation, dissolves parliament and takes control of the country herself to “make Britain great again”. Her mission: conquer the galaxy and colonise the stars.
And so two cadets are blasted into space (via Big Ben, no less) and sent on an adventure. What follows is a brief journey through trite nationalist jokes and clunky gameplay.
Developer Billy Goat Entertainment has certainly crafted a detailed vision. The visuals are crammed with British clichés, from the Queen herself surrounded by corgis, to the portraits of kings around the ship and the nodding Churchill dog in the cockpit. Even the language options specify “Queen’s English”. Character models are chunky and the ship they explore is meticulous, though the amateurish voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Much of the dialogue is spent poking fun at both the British and the gameplay of adventure games, but the endless self-deprecating jokes soon become tiresome when there’s little substance to it all. The fourth wall is cleverly broken in some amusing quips, but the game falls victim to the very same faults it aims to mock. “That’s how the genre works,” one character notes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and if it is broke there’s probably a tedious puzzle to fix it”.
The genre might not be broken, but it could do with an update. Instead, Her Majesty’s Spiffing sticks to those same tedious puzzles. Objects are acquired, examined and combined in illogical ways that frustrate more than they amuse, while clunky movement and menu systems make solving puzzles a chore. Worse, they play into tired stereotypes like making tea for the British, or distracting the French with frogs and cheese.
It wouldn’t matter so much if the mission was clear, but the narrative lacks urgency. Instead, most of the game is spent inside the ship doing menial chores with little impact and it’s soon over before it even gets going. What Galactic Empire?
“That’s why we voted out of the EU,” one cadet quips, “to get back to the good old days”. But if those days are full of lighthearted xenophobia and laborious puzzles it’s not worth the return. Go and play Monkey Island instead.